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KNOWLES: Losing The Shutdown Battle To Win The Border Wall War

By  Michael Knowles

Most Americans blame President Trump for the partial government shutdown, now the longest in our nation’s history, according to several polls. As CNN’s Chris Cilizza effused this morning, “Republicans are losing the shutdown blame game — and they can’t do anything about it.” He may be right, but who cares? Republicans shut down the government in 2013 in an attempt to defund Obamacare. Thirteen months later they won control of the Senate for the first time since 2006.

Before leftists pop champagne over the shutdown blame game, they might consider some alternative facts. A poll conducted five days after the government closed up shop this time around found that just 6% of respondents felt the shutdown has seriously affected their lives. An additional 21% of respondents were unaware that the government had shut down in the first place.

While a slight majority of Americans continue to oppose the wall, opposition has fallen from 63% last year to 54% today. Meanwhile, support for the wall has reached an all-time high, up to 42% over 34% at this time last year. At the same time, the protracted shutdown appears to have depressed President Trump’s job approval ratings, now the lowest in a year.

Democrats are passing the government shutdown on a beach in Puerto Rico, much to Sen. Bob Menendez’s apparent delight. They expect President Trump to cave on his signature campaign promise under approval poll pressure, whereupon they will reap electoral dividends as voters vent their frustration next November at a Republican-caused shutdown. President Trump spent the shutdown biding his time, willing to trade short-term popularity for a long-term policy victory.

Trump can afford to wait out his opponents as illegal immigration remains a major liability for Democrats. A 2018 Harvard-Harris poll found that 69% of registered voters oppose Democrat calls to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Securing the southern border, ending chain migration, and eliminating the visa lottery remain high priorities for a large majority of Americans. Beyond illegal immigration, the poll also found that 81% of voters want to reduce levels of legal immigration, with 63% of voters preferring to cut that figure by at least half.

The conventional wisdom holds that voters will punish Republicans for the government shutdown. But we do not live in conventional times. Most Americans remain blissfully unaffected by the partial shutdown, lending credence to former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels’s maxim: “You’d be amazed at how much government you won’t miss.” Last month in the Oval Office, President Trump assured Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, “I am proud to shut down the government for border security.” Schumer laughed, but Democrats aren’t laughing now, as Trump takes the blame for an increasingly popular policy. If the President sticks to his word, a short-term popularity loss promises long-term political gains.

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